Din is never done with advertising.

Khairudin Rahim has exited the marketing communications industry, which he has been a part of for nearly 5 decades.

But you can never take the advertising out of him.

We call him Din, with much affection.

And he is the rare Khairudin I know with only one D in his name.

Khairudin steps down as the Association of Accredited Advertising Agents Malaysia (4As) Chief Executive Officer tomorrow, upon the expiry of his contract.

He is one of the country’s most vocal advertising personalities was appointed as 4As CEO in 2015, and prior to that had been an elected member of the 4As Council for 3 terms.

Tan Sri Vincent Lee, honorary life president of the 4As, shares, “The industry will lose one of the best professionals in the country. He served the 4As extremely well during his tenure and will be hard to replace.”

Tan Sri adds that he was the one who insisted on Khairudin being appointed CEO when passing the baton to the incoming President. The CEO position did not exist previously.

At the time Khairudin accepted the role, he had retired from agency life.
His last position was Chairman of multinational agency Lowe&Partners, where he served for more than 30 years and was the custodian of an enviable roster of market leader brands, including Unilever, Johnson&Johnson, Sara Lee, IKEA, HSBC and Petronas.

During his nine years as the 4As CEO, Khairudin has spoken out on a host of industry issues, including lambasting advertisers who brazenly demand automatic ownership of the advertising agency’s pitch ideas, strategy and work, without compensation as part of their pitch terms & conditions.

The mandatory disbursement of “pitch fees” may well be the contribution that Khairudin will be most remembered for. It was at his recommendation that the 4As introduce in 2006, the mandatory pitch disbursement payment requirement for advertisers to partially reimburse 4As member agencies that were invited to a competitive pitch.

It was one of the boldest moves the 4As had ever taken and following its implementation during Tan Sri’s tenure as 4As President, Khairudin has continued to strengthen the pitch disbursement bylaws.

“Without him, we wouldn’t have launched the mandatory pitch fee rule. This was and still is crucial as a protective mechanism for all 4As agencies,” adds Tan Sri Vincent. “Khairudin was on our backs all the time, giving solid advice and backing our initiatives. Then, when we made mistakes, he was the first to jump on us too. The 4As must thank him for all his services. He is a brave and straight man that few can match.

Former 4As president Tony Savarimuthu describes Khairudin as “meticulous, scrupulous, fastidious, punctilious, painstakingly detailed – and a pain at times, too.”

He also acknowledges that Khairudin was the main architect of the mandatory pitch fee rule that “has now evolved, leaving the industry in a better place”.

Khairudin’s contributions are certainly not confined to the pitch disbursement idea. He introduced new advertisement rules in the Content Code that barred the use and commercial exploitation of religion in advertising.

He co-wrote and introduced industry best practices on “Finding An Agency”, “Ownership of Agency Ideas”, “Use of AI in Creative Content” and “Agency Compensation Models”.

In 2015, Khairudin spearheaded the forging of an alliance with the UK’s Chartered Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA), enabling Malaysians to have access to IPA’s globally recognised professional qualifications as well as IPA-endorsed trainers for bespoke training.
To date over 800 Malaysian practitioners have benefitted.

Concurrently, a 4As scholarship programme was set up for agency employees and advertising lecturers to study for the IPA qualifications.

Khairudin was also instrumental in rewriting the 4As objectives and clarifying with the Council, the scope of what the association should continue, stop and start doing.

Most recently, he organised an alliance between the 4As and legal firms to provide member agencies with a free first consultation for legal advice.

RHB Banking Group Chief Marketing Officer, Abdul Sani Abdul Murad, said that Khairudin “has rewritten the script on industry governance.”

“His love for the industry is as legendary as the standards he sets – always pushing the bar higher, ensuring that trust is not just a word we toss around in meetings, but the cornerstone of every interaction.”

“The advertising industry owes him an enormous debt.”

Khairudin, a marketing graduate from the Mara Institute of Technology (now UiTM) and a lad from Section 5, Petaling Jaya, started his advertising career in 1975 at McCann-Erickson at the age of 19. He joined Lowe & Partners (previously known as Lintas), his second and final agency in 1978 as account manager.

Post a three-year secondment to Lintas Sydney for immersion and fluency in strategy planning, winning new business and agency leadership, he was eventually promoted to Managing Director in 1995.

Under his leadership and together with his talented colleagues, Lowe was chosen as the most creative agency within the Lowe global network in 2004 and would go on to be awarded “Most Recommended Agency of the Year” and “Creative Agency of the Year” at the Marketers’ Choice Awards in 2012. Lowe was known for its effectiveness through properly practiced creativity.

Unilever’s former regional brand experience director, Bharat Avalani, considers Khairudin “a jewel in the Unilever crown.”

“We used to say in the office that Khairudin knew more about the brands than the clients did! It was never easy to win an argument with him as he was always prepared,” he recalls.

“Integrity is one word that I will always associate Khairudin with,” Bharat adds.

Andreas Vogiatzakis described Khairudin as “the man who combines the highest principles with a great sense of humour.” The former CEO of PHD and OMD Malaysia says there are many memorable instances, but the best was during a media agency pitch to IKEA where Khairudin, as the head of IKEA’s creative agency, also sat in.

“He sat quietly during several presentations to the client, and then just said two words at the end to change the course of action in our favour,” says Vogiatzakis. “What an ad-man!”

Meanwhile, former IKEA marketing manager Yap Poh Choo says Khairudin is inspirational and expressive, and has a strong personality.

“He is true to himself and his profession. He will always do his best to create, develop and enhance the client’s business.

“I truly admire his passion and dedication in advertising,” she says.

J Matthews, who led the secretariat of the 4As and the Malaysian Advertisers Association (MAA) says Khairudin is a sage expert on agency and association matters, always willing to help and is a friend to all.

He quips: “He is an outstanding advertising practitioner and his discussions on agency matters, breast enlargement ads and political advertising have left an indelible mark on me!”

Nizwani Shahar, CEO of Havas Malaysia and former 4As Vice President says “His unwavering integrity, visionary leadership and dedication to raising standards in industry policies have set a benchmark for excellence. Khairudin’s genuine warmth and mentorship have left an enduring impression on all who have had the privilege to work alongside him.”

DIFF Creative Consultants founder Ted Lim, one of the country’s most awarded copywriters, says that if he had to sum up Khairudin’s illustrious career in a single word, it would be “fearless”.

“As CEO of the 4As, he spoke up for fair play and the rights of advertising agencies – rationally, reasonably, clearly and loudly.”

“As MD of Lowe, he ran the advertising agency with passion and compassion, ingenuity and integrity – a rare combination of qualities that made him the conscience of the creative industry,” he says.

Lim adds somewhat ominously: “I don’t believe we have heard the last of Din as he moves on to his next adventure. No, he’ll be back to haunt us if we messed up!”

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